I am a linguist by training, but according to my MA thesis supervisor, Prof. Ton Dĳkstra, I am moreso a psychologist. After all, the reason I find language so fascinating is that it offers an insight in the human mind. We cannot think without language, as it provides us with the categories of mind we use to make sense of the world. The question of how human beings make sense of the world is also central in cognitive science and philosophy of mind, and it is in the area where these overlap with linguistics that my main research interests lie. In particular, I have tried to focus on the three-way relationship between language, cognition and culture. While doing research on this, I eventually realized that all the findings revolve around a central theme: meaning. The evidence shows that language, culture, and cognition mutually influence each other, and that this network of influence is closely connected to how people make sense of the world. I believe meaning is the key in understanding this connection. That’s why I came up with the concept of “meaning science” (see “Whence ‘meaning scientist’?” for more details).
If the scientific enterprise, and linguistics in particular, is to succeed, I believe interdisciplinary research is necessary. In late 2013 or early 2014, I became aware of the work of the musicologist Victor Grauer, and particularly his book Sounding the Depths: Tradition and the Voices of History (to the second edition of which I contributed). In this book, he describes how evidence from musicology (a much overlooked science!), together with genetics and archaeology, can shed light on human origins and the past. I believe that linguistics has a role to play here too and, indeed, scientists have begun to combine linguistics with other sciences in interdisciplinary research programs. This has led me to the formulation of a research program, which has not yet been properly fleshed out, but which is supposed to combine linguistics and various other disciplines into investigating how humans and their cognition evolved and how humans make sense of the world. The time-depth of this research program would be from “deep history” (what used to be called “prehistory”, i.e. from the time Homo sapiens first emerged, or perhaps even before that) to the present day. I believe language, music, material culture, religion, mythology, social organization, and other forms of human culture are all systems that help us make sense of the world and therefore the meaning aspect is central to all of them, which is why such a research program would also have to include a focus on philosophy of language and philosophy of mind.
I have not done any academic research since 2020. I would love to get into such topics again, but I have quit pursuing academia for the time being as I focus on my professional career. That said, if you are interested in similar topics, please feel free to contact me with any proposals.
Why “Department of Post‑Chomskyan Linguistics”?
You may wonder why my company is called the Department of Post‑Chomskyan Linguistics. Well, it’s kind of a joke. I became interested in the so-called “Pirahã controversy” years ago. This controversy revolved, or revolves, around the linguist Daniel Everett and the Pirahã language, which according to him falsifies Noam Chomsky’s theory of linguistics, especially the part about the so-called “faculty of language”. There is much more to it, but that’s the controversy in a nutshell. If you want a more in-depth take on the whole thing, you can read this 2007 article from The New Yorker. I use the phrase “post‑Chomskyan linguistics” to describe research that presents an alternative to traditional generative theories of grammar. Because I like that, I began jocularly referring to myself as the (one-man) “Department of Post‑Chomskyan Linguistics”. This then ended up becoming an official trade name for my business, because why not? Perhaps it is a bit of a misnomer, though, since Chomsky himself has stated he doesn’t believe in the Minimalist Program (his theory about the “faculty of language”) anymore. That means the most hardcore ‘Chomskyans’ are now people other than Chomsky himself. Perhaps “post‑generative” would be a better name. But I think this is funnier.
MA General Linguistics cum laude and internship
I wrote my MA thesis on bilingual visual language processing, particularly on what happens when word forms with multiple meanings and meanings with multiple associated forms are involved. I did the research in the form of an internship at the Donders Centre for Cognition, a research centre at the prestigious Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Ton Dijkstra, Professor of Psycholinguistics (now retired). His Multilink model of language processing, which is implemented in Java, allows for the simulation of visual word processing tasks in a variety of situations and produces outcomes that highly correlate with the results of experiments with human participants. At the time, I didn’t know much about programming—and certainly wasn’t able to read Java code—but I did succesfully manipulate the model’s settings and enlarged its lexicon so I could run the simulations needed for my research. My thesis was awarded the grade of 8.5 (on the Dutch grade scale which goes from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest) and I graduated with the Latin honour cum laude, after obtaining about 1.5 times the credits required to complete the MA program.
- 2019–2020: Intern, Donders Centre for Cognition, Donders Centre for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Nĳmegen, The Netherlands
- 2019–2020: MA (Res) Linguistics and Communication Sciences, Radboud University, Nĳmegen, The Netherlands
- 2018–2020: MA General Linguistics, Radboud University, Nĳmegen, The Netherlands
- 2009–2013: BA General Linguistics, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Download my elaborate academic CV
- Brown, J.A. 2019. Independent Pronoun Semantics: the pragmato-semanto-syntactic processing of pronominal reference. Radboud Universiteit Taalwetenschap Studententĳdschrift 1 (Dec 2019): 3–11.
- Brown, J.A. 2019. “Eu não falei nada pra ninguém não, né!” A variationist corpus study of negative concord in Brazilian Portuguese. Radboud Universiteit Taalwetenschap Studententĳdschrift 1 (Dec 2019): 62–71.
- Brown, J.A. 2020, January 31. Iconicity of the vowels in Dutch verbs: A review of Foolen (2019) and related literature. Presented at De Grote Taaldag/Dutch Annual Linguistics Day, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
- Brown, J.A. 2019, October 24. The Meme-ing of Meaning. Presented at the Moving Humanities: Finding Meaning conference, Graduate School of the Humanities, Radboud University, Nĳmegen, The Netherlands.
Page last updated: 4 September 2023.
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